Hebron Road crashes decline with traffic cameras
Injury crashes up slightly on Ohio 79, 30th St.
BY KENT MALLETT • Advocate Reporter • October 13, 2009
HEATH -- Crashes on Ohio 79 through the city of Heath have dropped dramatically since the installation of traffic cameras, when compared with 2008 without the photo-enforcement system.
Police Chief Tony Shepherd presented crash statistics Monday to the Heath City Council Safety Committee, showing crashes citywide and on Ohio 79 down sharply compared to the same period, June 1 to Oct. 6, in 2008.
Total crashes citywide dropped from 142 to 109, while crashes on Ohio 79 fell from 80 to 48. Eight of the city's 10 cameras are located on Ohio 79, also known as Hebron Road.
Crashes on 30th Street, where two cameras are located, were up from 10 to 14 during the four-month period. Injury crashes were up slightly on both streets, from a total of 15 in 2008 to 21 in 2009. Shepherd said only 11 of this year's 21 injury crashes actually involved a transport to the hospital.
Drivers following too closely, or assured clear distance ahead, was less of a crash cause this year than a year ago on the two camera-watched roads, falling from 50 in 2008 to 34 in 2009.
"Folks are being more vigilant," Shepherd said. "The reaction (to the cameras) was that our ACDA would skyrocket, and the reverse is the case. ACDA is a speeding infraction, in a sense, because it's going too fast for conditions."
Crashes related to the photo-enforcement intersections also fell, from 21 to 18.
Heath residents have the opportunity in the Nov. 3 election to change the city charter to outlaw cameras and force their removal, or keep them in place.
Mayoral candidate Mark Johns said the city can expect to collect about $4 million per year, based on the recent number of speeding violations, reported as 3,276 in September.
"To me, that seems to be an alarming amount of money to be collecting," Johns said. "I'm concerned about the reputation our city has received and the impact on area businesses and their inclination to stay away."
Heath's total collections for July and August were about $545,000, but the number of violations dropped substantially by September.
Shepherd said the actual amount likely will be far less than the $4 million estimate because the city shares the revenue with Redflex Traffic Systems, which installed and operates the cameras.
The city receives about 80 percent of the money from fines, lowering the estimate to about $3 million.
Mayor Waugh said 30 percent to 40 percent of the violations are uncollectible because citations are undeliverable, dismissed in an appeal hearing or the recipient refuses to pay. That could bring further the city's take down to about $2 million.
The mayor said it's too early to discuss what the city could do with the revenue.
"Nothing can be talked about for next year until after Nov. 3 (election)," Waugh said. "This income stream is way too early to think about what's going to happen in 2010."
The committee did approve spending about $60,000 on two new police cruisers this year, then possibly more cars next year. The full council must also approve.
The money for the police cars will come from the city's capital improvement funds, not necessarily from traffic camera fines. The revenue from the cameras goes into the city's general fund.
Brad Beck, a candidate to represent the city's 1st Ward on City Council, suggests the city use the camera money to purchase at least four cruisers now, maybe six.
"This will also reinforce your position of the traffic cameras being used for public safety as the priority in Heath," Beck wrote in a letter to the committee. "This may also convince voters on the camera issue that you mean what you say, just prior to Election Day."
The purchase of six cruisers all at once would force the city to replace all of them at once in future years.
"We probably should shoot for two at a time, not six," Shepherd said. "We need to stagger these things. Four at once is a tough pill. We could appropriate money for one or two now and two next year."
City Councilman Jim Watercutter asked the city administration to try to obtain data on the number of vehicles per day on Hebron Road, then compare to a study a few years ago.
"People are saying the traffic has really gone down," Watercutter said. "Show me the data."
Waugh said the city has asked for such information from Redflex, but the company said it does not have the capability to gather that information.
Kent Mallett can be reached at (740) 328-8545 or [replacer_a].